There’s a reason you’ve never started that big project. There’s a reason you’ve never built your side hustle, written a comic book, started a company, sold T-shirts, self published epic fantasy novels or founded a VC firm.
It’s because doing those is recognisably tough, and you understand and accept that there are a thousand things you don’t know about them. And you can’t figure out where to start.
You want to design a WordPress plugin, but you’ve got no idea how to sell it, or how to iterate, how to bill, how to do your taxes, how to offer technical support etc.
You want to write a graphic novel, but you have no concept about how to hire an artist to make your script come to life, or how much you should pay them, or anything else.
I have been there.
I have wanted to write a book, but with no publishing contacts and no idea how it works, those manuscripts have never been started. I’m still there now.
It’s the same again for anything you want to do. You know that the road is long, and there are too many variables, and when you start to think about it you lose your way and end up caught in a freezing point of inactivity.
What it all comes down to is that you never take the first steps. Every single project, every book that’s been written, every company that grew into a billion dollar enterprise, started with one single action.
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So here’s an approach I’m trying to push myself towards. If I want to start a project, I need to take one firm action. It doesn’t have to be huge, it doesn’t have to lead to immediate results, it doesn’t even have to be the right first step.
It just has to be taken.
You can figure out later on whether you’re going the right way, or if your first step was a misstep. You can figure out longer term plans and ideas and strategies, and you can write a business plan and you can get yourself a serious direction.
But you need to pull the trigger on something, and get started. Just one first step.
The first step is the hardest one to take, but if you can throw caution to the wind and set out, the others will come a little easier. It’s like any trek, any hike, you don’t start out reaching for the peak — you start at the beginning of the trail by putting one foot in front of the other.
So What Do Those First Steps Look Like?
If you want to write a novel, here’s a first step. Write a single scene, with the first characters you can think up, and get a feel for how it works. Once you’ve started exercising the characters and your own thoughts, you can get to planning what the book will really be.
If you want to sell a T-shirt, front the $ for 25 shirts of the first design you can dream up, and stand on a street corner handing them out to random people.
Take a single class. Launch a landing page. Knit your first sweater. Draw your comic book with stick figures. These are all fantastic first steps. Hey, you want to start a VC firm? Take $2,000 of your own money and sink it into a small business or a startup, and try and make it work. That’s something I do every year.
Whatever shape your first action or your first step takes, it just has to happen. Otherwise, you’ll never get around to it, and you’ll always be terrified of the unknowns, the to-do lists and the processes, systems and challenges that you’re yet to encounter.
Look, you don’t have to listen to me. But I started writing online by posting a single Amazon book review in the late 90’s. My first step. I started a management business by asking a local metal band if I could help them book some gigs. My first step. I started getting in shape by learning to cook one healthy bowl of Turkey chili.
When my girlfriend decided to trek to the Everest base camp, she went out and bought a pair of hiking boots.
These first steps, and about a hundred others, have changed the course of our lives time and time again.
You start at the beginning of the trail. You put one foot in front of the other.
[This post by James Altucher first appeared on Medium and has been reproduced with permission.]